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By Rebecca Fending
As 2020 comes to a close (finally), many folks are finding it hard to get into the festive spirit. With as many overwhelming events that have taken place since the spring, there’s no better way to lift your spirit than with holiday merriment. Here are just a few local places in the state that are sure to boost your mood and get you excited for the weeks to come.
Nights of Lights – St. Augustine
If you’re looking for a special date night with a mini road trip, Nights of Lights is your destination. Happening from now until January 31, this glowing festival ranks in National Geographic’s top 10 holiday light displays in the world, according to the event website.
You can gaze at the millions of glowing lights by way of train, trolley, stroll or on water from the Schooner Freedom. However, no matter what way you decide to take in the view, there’s no fear of disappointment. The entirety of the city’s Spanish architecture is cloaked in festive little bulbs – front, back, up and down.
Looking for a photo op with your date, family or even just to update your Facebook profile? The best spots for holiday selfies are The Plaza de la Constitución where stands a Christmas tree in the center of the plaza, and The Bridge of Lions where you can behold the lights as they reflect back off of the water’s surface.
This holiday spectacle is completely free of charge. To learn more, visit their website.
Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park – Tampa
Among the many holiday events currently taking place in the Tampa Bay area, Winter Village is one that’s great for all ages. This event takes place from now until January 3. The Village includes an outdoor ice rink (the only one in Tampa Bay) and various cafes and restaurants. There are also opportunities for holiday shopping from locally owned and operated small businesses.
In light of adhering to the CDC’s recommended COVID-19 regulations for public gatherings, guests must purchase Winter Village tickets online prior to arriving for $15 per person. These tickets have a designated/reserved time for guests to arrive and ensure at least 75 minutes of ice skating time.
To purchase your tickets and learn more about the event hours, visit their website.
Holiday Lights in Largo Central Park – Largo
Another festival that is both family-friendly and date night-friendly, Holiday Lights at Large Central Park is the perfect way to get excited about the holidays while getting out of the house. Open now until January 1, this festival is a returning local favorite.
This event features another brilliant holiday light display, carousel ride and a seven-story Ferris wheel which allows you to marvel at the expanse of the festival’s two million LED lights. There will also be a campfire and food and beverage vendors.
Park admission is free, but rides cost are $5 each.
Night Lights in the Garden – Naples
The Naples Botanical Garden is hosting the return of their annual Night Lights holiday festival. Walk through the enchanting botanical forest of tropical plant life and twinkling Christmas lights while enjoying holiday food and beverages from the Fogg Cafe. The event will host live entertainment performing classic Christmas favorites, as well as new lighting designs centered around their current featured exhibit, Steve Tobin: Nature Underground.
This year, in compliance with public health regulations, guests will be required to purchase tickets online here, which will include a specific time for your arrival in order to avoid long wait times and overcrowding.
Event hours are now through December 23; December 26 through 30; January 1 through 3, 6 to 9 pm, and 6 to 10 pm select evenings.
To learn more about the event, COVID-19 regulations and ticket pricing, visit the event website.
Gardens Aglow – Punta Gorda
Don’t live near Naples but want to visit a festive botanical garden? Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens has your holiday desires covered with their second annual Gardens Aglow walk through event.
Similarly to the Naples Botanical Garden, Peace River has decorated their gardens from top to bottom with Christmas cheer, including sculptures. There will be s’mores, food trucks and various family-friendly winter activities. You can also shop for holiday gifts at the Peace River gift shop each evening.
Gardens Aglow will take place from December 11 to 13, 18-20, 22-23 and 29-30 from 6 pm to 9 pm. This event is ticketed in order to maintain safe social distancing guidelines for guests. Be sure to buy your tickets online ahead of time as tickets will not be available at the door.
To learn more about Gardens Aglow’s hours, entertainment and ticket pricing, visit their site.